FORMER Minister of Grand Bahama Dr Michael Darville has called on Health Minister Dr Duane Sands to substantiate his allegations that the Christie administration awarded $90m worth of healthcare contracts shortly before the general election, calling the claims “untrue.”
Dr Darville, former member of Parliament for Pineridge, also demanded that Dr Sands table all relevant health contracts in the House of Assembly or apologise to the public for allegedly “misleading Parliament”.
“During his budget debate, Health Minister Dr Duane Sands indicated that the former Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) administration awarded $90m worth of healthcare contracts weeks before the general election and made specific reference to the awarding of a $500,000 monthly maintenance contract for the mini hospital in Abaco while the facility was closed, and a $424,000 monthly maintenance contract for the mini hospital in Exuma, by way of the Department of Public Health,” Dr Darville’s statement noted. “These statements are absolutely untrue.
“Firstly, I remind Dr Sands that the general election is over, that the honourable House of Assembly is not a rally stage, and all statements made therein, must be substantiated with facts. I also wish to bring to his attention that tender documents are neither signed contracts, nor proof of payment.
“Dr Sands should immediately move, therefore, to lay on the table of the honourable House, a copy of the said signed contracts to prove his claims, which is the ‘transparent’ and ‘accountable’ course of action; or he should apologise for misleading Parliament, and the Bahamian people. This is not a political game we are playing; and people’s reputations and livelihoods are at stake.”
Dr Darville noted that while more than 200,000 Bahamians are without health insurance, the Free National Movement “in its short sightedness” has watered down the National Health Insurance (NHI) programme “through significant funding cuts, while giving breaks to wealthy merchants through their tax policy.”
He added: “The PLP rejects Dr Sands’ comment that the government did not receive value for money; as empirical data from our global healthcare consultants and a land mark study verified that NHI would prove to have a positive impact on the country’s GDP in both the short and long-term. Subsequently, we challenge Dr Sands to provide his empirical data to support his opposing claim.
“Furthermore, it is a matter of public record that many clinics, as well as the three public hospitals have been in need of repairs for many years. Therefore, putting the right infrastructure in place was part of the government’s plan to stimulate the economy of the Family Islands, bring islanders back home, and attract direct foreign investments to the southern Bahamas. For those reasons, it was very imprudent of the health minister to place a dollar value on the health of residents in these islands, when he stated that $14m was too much to spend on the upgrades and construction of the much-needed healthcare facilities in Cat Island, Rum Cay and San Salvador.”
Dr Darville said the PLP will not apologise for launching NHI, which included the upgrading of several medical facilities.
“Nonetheless, to effectively implement our transformative healthcare agenda, infrastructural improvements were necessary on every island, and contracts had to be issued in order to get the job done. To date, just over 22,000 residents throughout the country have registered for NHI. The process was transparent, and we are proud of this achievement on behalf of the Bahamian people.
“It is abundantly clear that the FNM came to office with a huge mandate, but no plan, which is regrettable, and a disservice to the Bahamian people. The FNM promised the Bahamian people catastrophic health care, but put $15m less than what the PLP was proposing for our selective catastrophic programme, which was scheduled to be launched after the general election,” Dr Darville added.
Last Wednesday, Dr Sands told the House of Assembly that the former Christie administration left millions in unpaid bills for medical equipment, rent, drugs and salaries at the Ministry of Health and the Public Hospitals Authority.
Dr Sands said rather than pay “mothers, fathers and grandmothers” the money they are owed, the PLP government, found the money to award “$90m dollars” of lucrative contracts to people who might be considered “the party faithful.”
“So even though the treasury could not pay millions and millions of obligations affecting thousands of ordinary Bahamians – many of whom were suffering extreme financial hardship because of the government’s delayed payments, they were authorised, they were directed, Mr Speaker, to make what some would call a political down payment. In addition, Mr Speaker, the side opposite entered into $9,756,006.64 worth of security contracts, janitorial contracts, generator purchases and other miscellaneous items weeks before the general election,” Dr Sands said.
“We have contracts here, monthly cleaning services for the Exuma mini-hospital—$424,638.84. Monthly cleaning Abaco clinic—the Abaco clinic has not been opened, Mr Speaker—$500,000. Monthly landscaping services $26,000,” he also revealed.